Irish theater goers stuff their face during the performance

I have always loved theater. I've been a devotee since I was about ten or so, and I've been participating in productions for about as long (although thankfully I think my mother has finally lost the taped proof re: my elementary school's yearly musical).

Even today, I do chorus work for my home university's musical theater troupe, surrounded by wonderful, crazy people who are essentially my family. Outside of rehearsals, we attend tours and plays in a solid mass, and spend hours obsessing over the talents of their casts and crew. It's unhealthy, but such is the siren song of the performing arts – which is why it came as such a shock to me when my first live show in Ireland was a complete disaster.

Seriously. Never would have expected it.

My friends and I had purchased student tickets to a show in Cork's city center, and we arrived rather early. As the lilac seats around us began to fill up, we noticed something odd: our fellow audience members seemed to be bizarrely laden down with goodies. Drafts of stout from the bar, cups of coffee, and sacks of candy filled the aisles around us. The couple next to me were even spooning up ice cream.

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It was so strange. Theaters in the States rarely permit food or drink, and for good reason, I realized now: the noise was unreal.

Worse, rather than ceasing when the show started, it seemed to escalate. Plastic crackled; people munched. The women behind us discussed every single plot development in perfectly normal conversational tones, while the teens in front of us texted throughout the show. Someone's phone rang; then someone else's joined it. About eight people got up to go to the bathroom and shuffled down their aisles in the middle of stage action, rather than waiting for intermission or even a scene change.

It might have even been funny: it was the perfect spoof of what you're not supposed to do.

But I was miserable on behalf of the actors. Sure, they performed well, but the fact remains that a show is not a film: there is a symbiosis between a troupe and an audience. Actors are completely conscious of what is happening out in the seats and their performance responds to it. A reactionary, respectful audience creates better work; a bored or boisterous one destroys it. This one was barely giving the stage their attention, honestly.

My friend Bri, who actually happens to be a theater major, sat back at intermission in a barely suppressed rage. “I can't decide whether it's the culture, or whether these people are just jackasses,” she said, looking around. We laughed, because what else could we do?

Later, on our way out, we checked with a staff member – who confirmed that it's perfectly normal for an Irish audience to consume food and drink during a performance. We could barely believe it.

I'm still a little shell-shocked from the experience, actually. Perhaps it was an anomaly, but I think I'll think I'll pass on Irish theater from now on, and just go back to pubs for my evening entertainment.